After a disappointing showing at the London Olympics, Zach Bell finished his cycling season as a winner.
The Watson Lake athlete won the Challenge Sprint Pro in Quebec City on Sept. 6. Fellow Canadian, Remi Pelletier-Roy, took second.
The event is unlike regular road races because it is only one kilometre, with the top two riders in each heat of four advancing.
There were 24 competitors in this year’s event. Bell competed in last year’s inaugural event, but was eliminated after the first round.
This year’s result was a bit of a surprise for the 29-year-old.
“I knew that with my skill set I could do well,” he said in an email to the News. “But I had not been feeling great for quite some time. The Olympic push over the past few years had worn me out, so to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much.”
The final heat saw the two Canadians racing against Australia’s Matt Goss and Michael Matthews, two of the world’s fastest male cyclists.
Bell raced each of them twice and beat them both times.
He used his knowledge of his competitors to win the final heat and was confident he could pass Pelletier-Roy because they’ve often raced each other in Canada. After making a couple fake moves to see how he would react, Bell biked alongside the fellow Canadian. It was harder for the Australians to pass a wall of two riders.
The result provided Bell with a confidence boost, as he considers what will come next in his athletic career.
He won medals at two World Cup events he competed in this season.
Bell entered the men’s omnium track cycling event at the Olympics as a medal hopeful, but finished eighth. He earned a spot on the team after finishing second at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships in April, one spot ahead of the eventual Olympic champion.
“It is a consolation and a confirmation that I can, in fact, still win races and win against some of the best. Your confidence is crushed when you under-perform at an event that you should have been ideally prepared for. I knew I was capable but I was not sure when I was going to be able to access that talent again. This was a good setting to do it on. I was glad I was able to do it before the season was out, otherwise I may have been fighting insecurities for much of the winter. It does not make up for my shortcomings at the Olympics, but it does help set the stage for my next chapter in cycling.”
Right now, the two-time Olympian has not re-signed with SpiderTech, his professional Canadian team, but he hopes to either continue on with them, or with another team at a similar level, he said.
No matter what, Bell does not want to leave cycling, he said.
“I have unfinished business and more ability than I have been able to show so far.”
If he continues to cycle, his focus will remain on road racing, he added.
For now, Bell plans to visit Whitehorse on Sept. 15 and 16. The Whitehorse-born athlete now calls Vancouver home. There will be a charity bike ride on Saturday to raise money for a fund Bell is creating to help kids in the communities to participate in sports. There will be a ride for kids on the Millenium Trail Saturday morning and two rides throughout the city for the whole community.
And then there’s the most important task of his off-season: preparing for the arrival of his first child. His wife Rebecca is due to deliver shortly after the visit to Whitehorse.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at email@example.com